THE BIG QUESTION: HOW TO KEEP KIDS CONNECTED WITH THE WORLD WHEN THEIR WORLD HAS SHRUNK?
Remember four weeks ago? We still ate at restaurants… just with a little space between us and our fellow diners. Kids still competed in sports… they just bumped elbows instead of shaking hands after the game. And trips to the playground – where kids played with friends, and parents hung out with neighbors – were perfectly fine… as long as we washed our hands afterward.
Well. Throw that playbook out the window.
The warnings about why we need to be taking social distancing seriously are starting to sink in for most people, and I’ve certainly noticed marked differences from just last week. Neighbors “chat” from six feet away. Walkers heading toward each other hug their side of the sidewalk, or even move into the empty streets. And parents have no embarrassment of yanking kids out of the way of passersby.
But now that we’re treating each other like zombies, how do we make sure that children don’t turn into ones as well? Maintaining relationships is super important for children, says Melissa Brymer of the UCLA / Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. “It supports their social emotional development and strengthens their social emotional skills,” she tells Nat Geo in an article about creative ways to keep kids connected.
It’s something more families are thinking about, especially through spring celebrations like Passover, Easter, and Ramadan. Nat Geo readers have engaged in video conferencing ordinary dinners as well as holiday get-togethers. Birthday cakes from afar. Even family games.
If true social distancing soon becomes the norm for everyone, just for a bit, maybe by this time next year we can celebrate our spring holidays surrounded by multitudes of friends and family – face to face.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For parents of autistic kids: Homeschooling during COVID-19 shutdowns poses special challenges. But staying connected with your special needs community and keeping things flexible can help, writes Michelle Z. Donahue for Nat Geo. Other ideas are to leverage a child’s hyperfocus, such as using a super-favorite snack as a teaching tool, or making him or her feel empowered with choices, like taking a walk or watching videos.
Before you make homemade masks: Check out this Nat Geo story on the what experts say about the safety of various masks. Here's more on the thinking behind face mask use outdoors and a caution not to have a false sense of security if you use one.
Why can’t I go to Chuck E. Cheese? In a calm voice, New York Times science reporter Carl Zimmer answers recorded questions from kids, including how the idea of a virus was figured out by sciences, where the word coronavirus comes from (spoiler alert: Latin), and how viruses are spread. This episode of The Daily podcast is the dispassionate and weirdly reassuring (as possible) opposite of Contagion or The Hot Zone – and worth a half-hour listen. Alas, Zimmer explains to one disappointed boy, we can’t go to Chuck E. Cheese for a while.
Family discussion: When are things you see or read about not true? How can you tell? A deep desire to feel better during this pandemic has left many children and adults vulnerable to fables and misinformation online that they might want to believe. Nat Geo’s Natasha Daly has documented the rise of fake animal photos – and suggested a way your family could investigate to find out if the image or story is true. Here’s another take on how parents can help their kids sort fact from fiction.
Handling other uncomfortable questions: More time with kids means more opportunity for them to ask: What’s our world going to look like when we grow up and have kids, too? With (persistent) kids of a certain age, it is hard to get around the nascent climate change questions. First, acknowledge that one person can’t fix the entire world, but break it down into doable pieces. Nat Geo’s Patricia Edmonds lists ideas in the home, at the store, in the neighborhood, and as a citizen. With delightful illustrations (above) by Tomi Um. Nat Geo subscribers can read it here.
The unicorns of the sea: Kids are obsessed with narwhals. But they are hard to find in their Arctic home. Here’s a way to watch them from home and learn more about them. Related: What are the sizes of six ocean animals and how do they compare to you? Measure and use these measurement conversions to find out.
KEEPING YOU HEALTHY
Traveling ... from home: Nat Geo’s Starlight Williams has five places to “go” this month, without a drop of gas. They include watching the year’s biggest supermoon on Tuesday and the live-streamed fields of bright orange poppies (above) springing up in the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. Animals editor Rachael Bale suggests a webcam “trip” to Minnesota – to see the Great Spirit Bluffs' baby falcons.
What would elders tell you now? The oldest among us have lived through a Depression and a world war. What’s the advice they would give to parents and kids going through family isolation now?
- Be generous.
- Notice small joys.
- Prepare more, worry less.
- Remember that you will get past this.
That’s according to Cornell University gerontologist Karl Pillemer, who began interviewing America’s eldest for a project in 2003. “A morning cup of coffee, a warm bed on a winter night, a brightly colored bird feeding on the lawn, an unexpected letter from a friend, even a favorite song on the radio – paying special attention to these ‘microlevel’ events forms a fabric of happiness that lifts them up daily,” Pillemer says. “They believe the same can be true for younger people as well.”
Disco (cabin) fever: A newsletter reader in Mexico City, Carin Zizzis, came up with an indoor discotheque to burn off the energy of her two housebound kids. It’s not so hard, she tells us. “Quick hack: dimmed lights, happy pop hits, and a flashlight or two.” Another reader, Osmond Crosby of Utah, said he practiced social distancing by taking his family to the Bonneville Salt Flats, sending along this picture: "The only other family there that morning was playing ball across the road and out of sight," he wrote.
TRY THIS: BOREDOM BUSTERS FOR KIDS
Keeping kids’ brains active: Tomorrow is the 111th anniversary of the announced discovery of the North Pole. Introduce kids to one of its residents with this fun Arctic Fox Snowboarding game that also teaches about physics. Then meet other northern animals like polar bears and harp seals, and learn about the polar region where they live (as well as the other polar region!) Nat Geo Kids website also has tons of DIY crafting videos, recipes, and science experiments (like this glow-in-the-dark science kit from our partners at Dr. Cool) to keep kids busy.
We asked, you answered: Last week we asked you to tell us about activities you were doing with your kids to help keep them active and mentally healthy. Two of your suggestions: 1) taking the paint set outside to get positive vibes from nature (plus it’s far less messy!); and 2) helping older neighbors by weeding, picking up branches, and maybe even planting flowers. Read more crowdsourced activities here, then give us more ideas!
But wait, there’s more: Where is the highest mountain? Where was pizza invented? Where can I see the most stars? Young readers can travel the world from any room in the house with Little Kids First Big Book of Where, the latest book in the popular Nat Geo Kids First Big Book series.
Looking for more learning? We’ve got you covered. Whether you’re a parent at home or a teacher in the classroom, the brand-new NatGeo@Home hub is the place to go for resources across National Geographic for both older and younger children.